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Nederlands Institiiut 
voor Volkshuisvestin^ 
en Stedebouw 

Dutch housing 

3 d. 




MAY 2 1951 

"^mv OF TC*^^ 

Printed by Drukkeru en Uitqeveru J. H. de BUSSY, AMSTERDAM. 

Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2008 witii funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



The Dutch Housing Act dates from 1901. Before that 
year, however, many local authorities had handled the 
housing question. They were able to do so according to 
their general legislative powers which are of a more extensive 
character than those of English local authorities ^). Under 
our Local Government Act they are allowed to pass regu- 
lations on behalf of public order, morality and health and other 
regulations relating to the management of the community. 
Practically this means that they have power to deal with all 
matters which are not especially reserved to the legislative power 
of Parliament. 

This state of affairs has not been changed by the Housing- 
Act. Local authorities are, with a few exceptions, able to take 
such measures on behalf of housing improvement as they may think 
fit, independently of the Housing Act, in the same way as they 
might have done before. So, for instance, they may buy and 
sell land, build houses, lend money to private builders or public 
utility housing societies just as they might have done (and did) 
before the passing of the Housing Act. 

The main significance of the Act may be seen in the 
following facts : 

1. it compels local authorities to take some measui'es which 
had previously been at their option only ; 

2. it bestows some new powers on them ; 

3. some local authority measures are made subject to the 
approval of the Provincial Government (County Council); 

4. financial aid for housing purposes may be granted by 
the State. 

The Act deals with the housing question in its widest sense, 
only a few subjects (housing exchanges, local housing inspection) 
not being included. 

ij Our Local Government Act does not make a distinction between boroughs, 
urban and rural districts etc., all being in the same legal position. In the following 
the word "municipality" is understood to cover them all. 

Its first part imikcs it a duty of local authorities to issue 
buil'Jin.u l)yo laws coiilainiiig provisions with respect to: 

1. tiio phu'ins of buildings on public I'oads and their distance 
from »'Hcli other ; 

'2. the level of the lloors of down-stair rooms and the height 
of l>uildings; 

."). th(^ minimum sizes of habitable rooms, staircases and passages ; 

4. closets ; 

n, water-supply ; 

G. the prevention of fire; 

7. the prevention of dampness; 

iS. the structure of foundations, walls, floors, ceilings and roofs ; 

",». the removal of smoke, slopwater and house refuse; 
10. lighting and ventilation. 

This enumeration has not a restrictive character ; local author- 
ities passing in accordance with their general powers, regulations 
relating to other matters in respect of building, may embody 
them in the building byelaw. 

"Whereas the said regulations deal with buildings to be erected, 
provisions for existing dwellings shall be given with respect to 
the subjects mentioned in nos. 5 — 10. 

Municipal building byelaws are subject to the approval of the 
Provincial Government. The Act provides that, if within three 
years after the passing of the Act, any local authority fail to 
have made building byelaws, the Provincial Government shall do so. 
In about a quarter of all municipalities this has proved necessary. 

To erect or alter a building, warrant must be obtained from the 
local authority. The warrant can only be refused if the premises are 
not in conformity with the building bye laws. Building plans must 
be submitted for the approval of the local authority prior to the 
commencement of the work. No new house may be occupied and no 
building used as a house until a certificate of fitness for occupancy- 
has loeen given by the same authority. 

The second Part of the Act has made an attempt to deal 
with overcrowding, as it imposed upon landlords the duty to 

4 — 

give notice to the local authority of the number of occupants of 
the house and the changes in that number. This part will shortly 
be repealed and replaced by an article stating the duty of local 
authorities to establish a housing exchange. 

The third Part bears on house improvement. Health Commit- 
tees (see below) have to make enquiries into the housing conditions 
in the municipalities of their area and to give notice to the 
local authority concerned of such houses as want, whether in 
their present condition fit for human habitation or not, impro- 
vement or are overcrowded. Local authorities themselves are 
to make like enquiries. If the premises are found to want 
repairs, a notice is served on the owner to execute all such 
works as might be necessary, and if overcrowded, to stop the 
overcrowding. The owner has a right of appeal to the Town 
Council. In case of non-compliance to the notice, a penalty 
may be imposed by the county-bench, the local authorities may 
themselves execute the necessary works or declare the premises, 
if so, to be unfit for human habitation and issue an order prohib- 
iting the use of the house as such. 

The issuing of orders prohibiting the use of a house for 
human habitation, is dealt with in the next, the fourth Part of the 
Act. Those orders may be issued by the Town Council, either 
in the case mentioned above or if a house is found to be unfit 
for human habitation and cannot be rendered fit by the making 
of repairs. The owner has a right of appeal against tlie order 
to the Provincial Government. 

The order specifies a time, not exceeding six months, within 
which the house shall be left by the occupants, the use as a 
workshop, store etc., being allowed. To each house declared 
unfit for human habitation, a board to this effect is affixed. 

If necessary, local authorities may issue a closing order and, 
in case of danger, pull down the house. 

In compliance with the above mentioned Parts of the Act every 

— 5 

nniniciiuUity in the c()imtry now has its building byelaw in 
order to secure good building and affording a standard of minimum 
rei|uirements, with which existing houses have to«comply. In the 
fam»> time the way for dealing with bad premises is laid down in 
the Act ('). The opjioitunity oi raising the housing standard 
is open. 

Excellent work has been done and much has been improved. 
Tiiroughout the country, in the towns as well as in rural 
districts, the wi)rst houses have disappeared and the less bad 
ones have lieon improved. But a lot of work is still to be done. 
In our towns areas of vast extent should be pulled down on 
account of overhousing and bad building ; our great towns espe- 
cially make no exception to a state of affairs, prevalent all over the 
world. In rural districts the housing standard ought to be raised. 

Since the Act became law, up to the end of 1914, 12,918 houses 
have been condemned as unfit for human habitation, 3,739 of 
which at Amsterdam, 180 at Rotterdam and 586 at the Hague. 
Since the war there has been practically no increase. 

As regards house improvement, a good deal of the work, 
especially in rural districts, has been done by the above 
mentioned Health Committees. 

These Committees have been instituted throughout the whole 
country, each town of more than 20.000 inhabitants possessing 
its own committee. Its members, appointed by the Provincial 
Government, are not paid, with the exception of the secretary, 
who, howevei', is understood to fulfil his duties as a secretary 
besides those of his ordinary profession. 

The Health Committees are to be consulted by local authorities 
whenever measures in housing matters are to be taken. 

During the first years after the passing of the Act, they made 
thorough investigations into the housing conditions in their area 
which formed the basis for measures to improve or remove bad 

1) It is evident that iu cases where a regulation is given by the Act, this regulation 
overrules the general powers of local authorities, so that they are hound to act in 
accordance with the special regulation. 

6 — 

buildings. In later years they acted on complaints, in most cases 
making an enquiry and proposing repairs or closing orders when- 
ever complaints came in. Though they are hampered by the fact 
that their work is not paid for (in some exceptional cases only 
a salaried official being at their disposition), in rural districts 
without their interference little would have been done. For as 
a rule in these districts a housing inspection is not provided 
for. Even the building inspection too often is very poorly managed, 
a local carpenter officiating as inspector, lacking both the 
technical skill and the desire to do the work as it should be 
done. Besides many rural local authorities, having been forced 
to make building bye-laws they do not care for, are not anxious 
about their enforcement and many houses have been built with 
total disregard of the building regulations. In some exceptional 
cases only, Health Committees have made an arrangement by 
which the salaried official in iheir service officiates, not only as 
a housing inspector, but even as a building inspector for the 
municipalities in their area. 

In towns of more importance, the supervision of housing 
and building is in the hands of the Public Works Department, 
out of which in larger towns a separate Building and Housing 
Inspection Department develops; in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the 
Hague and Schiedam a Housing Department is added. In those 
cases orders for improvement and closing orders are as a rule 
prepared by the officials of those departments and Health Com- 
mittees are only asked for advice. 

A bill will shortly be introduced into Parliament providing the 
compulsory appointment of building and housing inspectors by 
local authorities in such a way that municipalities of minor impor- 
tance will have to act jointly. 

Since the war, house improvement has practically come to an 
end. The housing shortage growing rapidly, no houses could be 
missed. Local authorities were unable to issue closing orders. 
Even oi'ders for repairs could hardly be given, the prices of 
materials rising steadily and many materials being scarce. 

— 7 

The fifth Part of the Act deals with the compulsory acquisition 
of land by municipalities and public utility housing sot'ieties l^* 
for the purpose of slum clearance and 2'"> for the carrying out 
(if a liousing scheme or an extension plan. This part of the 
Act is of minor importance, as it |gives only extension to the 
Act of 1851 on Compulsory Land Accjuisition, some parts of 
which have been amended in order to facilitate the use of it 
for housing purposes. An endeavour has been made to give a 
satisfactory regulation for the fixing of the compensation to 
be paid for houses and sites, ^if these cannot be purchased by 
voluntary agreement. 

In the case of slum clearance for houses proved to lie unlit 
for human habitation, the compensation is based on the value of 
the site and the building materials ; if the houses want repairs, 
the costs are to be deducted from the value of the house. In 
other cases the fair market price the sites would have obtained, 
if all sold within a period of from eightteen to six moiiths before 
the preparation of the plan, forms the basis of the compensation. 

In practice there is "no great difference between the regulation 
of the principal act and that laid down in the Housing Act. From 
many sides it is urged that for land not yet used for building 
purposes, only the value it has in accordance to its present use 
should be paid. 

In some cases the Act has been made use of for slum clearance ; 
more often for the acquisition of land included in a town planning 
scheme for instance at Amsterdam where all land included in the 
„Scheme South" has been acquired by the municipality either 
by voluntary agreement or by way of the Act. 

One of the Emergency Acts deals with the compulsory acquisi- 
tion of land as it empowers local authorities to enter on and take 
possession of land before compensation is fixed. 

In Part VI of the Act Town Planning is regulated. 

Two sections deal with the subject. The first states the local 
authority's power to prohibit building on sites where, according to 
an order of the Town Council, a street is to be laid out. Whether 

local authorities possessed the power to do so before the passing- 
of the Act was doubtful. The order is subject to the approval 
of the Provincial Government, who shall reject it if the owner's 
property would be injuriously affected by it. 

The second section aims at the same end as some other parts 
of the Act do, viz. to force local authorities to do what they 
had already power to do, and to make some measures subject 
to the Provincial Government's approval. It obliges municipalities 
of more than 10.000 inhabitants or the population of which 
has increased by more than a fifth within the last five years to 
make an extension plan. The plan is to be revised at least every 
ten years. Approval of the Provincial Government is needed. 
Before the passing of the plan, maps shall be laid down for 
public inspection so that owners of land included in the plan 
who think themselves injuriously affected, will have an oppor- 
tunity to object. 

An extension plan (town planning scheme) in the sense of the law is 
a set of building lines and may be considered a map showing on what 
lines the Town Council deem the extension of the municipality 
has to develop. It depends on the owners of the land included, 
whether the laying out will actually be carried out. If so, not 
even the plan itself imposes any duty on these owners. But 
the observance of it may be enforced by a provision inserted in 
almost all building bye-laws and prohibiting building otherwise 
than on roads, whether existing at the moment the building 
bye-law was passed, or laid out in conf. -rmity with a set of 
regulations relating to site, width, level structure, sewerage, 
gasmains, placing of trees etc., which may vary from case to case. 

This provision enables local authorities to force all owners to 
observe the plan, when laying out their lands, as consent for 
the making of streets is only to be given if they are projected 
in conformity with it. In rural districts, however, such consent 
too often is given without it's observance. 

As building on sites included in the plan and bordering 
existing roads is not prohibited by the aforesaid provision in 
the building bye-laws, a special order of the Council, as mentioned 

— 9 

in tlio first section of this Part, is wanted to prolu))it l)uilding 
on sites destined to l)e a road and bordering an existing road. 
If the approval of the Provincial (loverniuent cannot he obtained, 
and, in case a proposed park or something similar borders an 
existing road, building can only be j^rohibited by the acquisition 
of the site by the local authority ^yhether by voluntary agrocMuent 
of compulsorily. 

.Vs there is no obligation upon the owners of the land to 
carry out such works as are provided by the plan, the carrying 
out of them can only be secured by special agreements between 
local authority and owner. If, for instance, a park is projected, 
the sites required have to be purchased and the park laid out by the 
local authority. When streets of uncommon width are to be laid 
out or some green shall be preserved or an open space reserved, 
a financial arrangement between local authority and owner is 
to be made. 

In respect to small towns there is no reason to object to this 
state of affairs, as there may be no great need for the laying 
out of all the land included in a plan. In larger or rapidly 
growing towns, however, where there is a pressing want of 
building sites, the only way by which an effective carrying into 
eifect of the plan can be secured, is by the ownership of all the 
land included by the local authority. Our larger towns have, 
whether by voluntary agreement or by compulsory acquisition, 
become owners of vast areas of land, which they formerly 
sold to builders, but now in most cases lease. 

The Hague possesses an area of 962 H.A. (2405 acres), 
12 H.A. (30 acres) of which are leased to public utility housing 
societies. At Amsterdam 148 H.A. (370 acres) are leased for 
building purposes. 

Even where there is no extension plan, the worst consequences 
of a totally uncontrolled lay-out may be prevented by the 
above mentioned powers of local authorities. In too many cases, • 
however, schemes proposed by speculative builders and private 
owners of land are adopted without any consideration as to the 
requirements of the community. 

10 — 

In most cases, even in our larger towns, partial plans have 
been made, the Hague being the only great town possessing a 
comprehensive plan. 

In view of the state of affairs described above, allowing 
local authorities to handle many matters, for the handling of 
which in England they need to be especially authorized i), an 
elaborate regulation as contained in the English Housing and 
Town Planning Act, 1909, Part II, has not yet proved neces- 
sary. Yet in some respects (not mentioned here) the Act requires 
revision, and in the long run a more comprehensive provision in 
which those sections of local building bye-laws relating to the laying 
out of streets, the placing of buildings, building lines etc. find 
a more uniform regulation, will prove necessary. 

The two next parts of the Act., Parts VII and VIII, which 
regulate State aid to housing, have proved of great importance 
durii>g the last years, as they have enabled public utility 
housing societies and local authorities to go on building, not- 
withstanding the rise of prices of materials and the increase 
of the rate of interest. 

As is Avell known, State aid to housing is allowed in many 
countries in various ways. The Belgian legislation, adopted by 
the French, encourages the erection of houses by individual 
persons, for which purpose some public institutions are allowed 
to lend a part of their funds. An intricate system of societies 
which have to act as an intermediary have been found necessary, 
partly in order to have due control over the use of the money 
and the person to whom it is lent, and partly to diminish the 
risk for the public institutions. In Germany and Austria too. 

1) 3Iost regulations for instance inserted in the Euislip-Northwood Sclierae 
(Aldridg-e, The Case for Town Planning) in sections 4—5, 8—18, 22—26, 39—31 
are casually settled by local authorities when new building land is being developed or 
new streets are being laid out, whereas provisions respecting the matters regulated 
in sections 36—39, 44, 46—48, 50—51, 53—55, 60 have been inserted in almost 
all local building bye-laws, and regulations with reference to the matters regulated 
in the sections not mentioned may, if necessary, be given. 

— 11 

some iiuhlii.' institutions have lent money co societies, not, however, 
to hand it over to individual persons, l)ut in order to enable 
these societies to build houses, which they may either let or sell. 

According to the Dutch regulation, the State itself grants loans, 
a feature Dutch and Enijlisli regulations have in common. The 
loan is only granted to local authorities, never to building associa- 
tions, public utility housing societies or individual persons direct. 
In most cases local authorities do not build themselves, but grant 
loans to public utility housing societies, which apply to them for 
that purpose. Local authorities then apply to the State, which 
grants the loan. This system aflfords the opjjortunity of a more 
efficient control over the societies by the local authority than could 
be exerted by a central department. The money is advanced on 
mortgage, repayable in fifty i) years by efjual annual instalments, 
the interest being fixed at the rate indicated by the market quota- 
tion of the State debentures on the Amsterdam Exchange. The 
local authority is responsible for the payment of the interest and 
instalments on the loan, so that there is no financial risk for the 
State. The Government is willing to grant 100 per cent, of the total 
building cost. Local authorities, on granting the loan, may impose 
such conditions on the society as they may think fit, to secure efficient 
management, proper repairs, etc. Sometimes a certain amount of 
private capital, forming a varying part of the cost of land and 
building (hJardly ever exceeding 5 per cent., however) is required. 
More often the society possesses a little capital, such as the 
share capital of the membsrs (/. 25 or £ 2 Is. each), which has 
no relation at all to the capital cost of the buildings. Only a 
few larger societies in our greater towns ha\e a larger capital 
at their disposal. 

The jiublic utility societies have a semi-public character. They 
must be authorized by the Government; the interest on their 
shares is limited to 4 per cent. ; the capital and the profit are 
only to be applied to the improving of housing ; and the members 

1) Since 1915 this period may be 75 years. As ix rule, 50 years is tlie tiiTiiitl, 
for which loins for building: purposes are granted, 75 years for buying land. 

12 - 

can be given no right to buy their houses. More than 900 
pubhc utility societies are now authorized. About 250 are orga- 
nized in the Nationals Woningraad (National Housing Council), 
this corporation being exclusively a federation of public utility 
housing societies and building local authorities. 

In addition to the loans, annual subsidies may be granted 
if an economic rent cannot be obtained, e.g. if extraordinary 
expenditures sei'iously increase working expenses, as may occur 
in the case of slum clearance, or if the inhabitants are of the very 
poor. The subsidy is granted as a subsidy in the loan charges, 
including interest and the payments for redemption of principal, 
on the capita] borrowed. As a rule, half the subsidy is to be 
paid out of the local authority's funds, the other half being 
provided by the State. 

Up to the end of 1914, 461 loans had been granted, 371 on 
behalf of public utility societies, 90 on behalf of local authorities 
building themselves; 9,900 houses had been built and loans in 
total had been approved for the building of 16,251 houses. 

Since the beginning of the war, private enterprise has been 
practically out of business. Working-class houses have only been 
built by public utility societies and some local authorities. The 
housing shortage is growing every day; at least 100,000 houses 
are now wanted. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam about half of 
the newly-married people cannot get houses. In the next five 
years 250,000 should be built. 

Immediately after the beginning of the war the State fixed 
the interest chargeable on State loans at S^/g per cent., being the 
interest indicated by the market quotation of the State debentures 
on the Amsterdam Exchange the day before it was shut. 
Moreover since the end of 1916 a subsidy has been granted to 
meet the difficulties caused by the rise in the prices of materials. 
In June 1919 a uniform regulation to cover the deficit arising 
from both causes, was passed ; 75 per cent, being afforded by the 
State, 25 per cent, by the local authority. 

Since the war, more loans than ever have been granted, the 
total number of loans at the end of 1917 being 810; of which 

I — 13 

636, amounting to/. 71,500,000 (about £ 6,000,000) wcie -..u.te.l 
on behalf of public utility societies; 174, amounting to/. 27,500,000, 
on behalf of municipal building, including a loan to Amsterdam 
of /. 15,000,000. 

During the year 1918 loans were granted amounting to 
/. 43,000,000 (about £ 3,600,000), for the building of 9,613 houses 
(1,875 by local authorities, 7,738 by public utility societies), the 
annual subsidy of the State (^/^ of the yearly deficit) being 
esteemed at /. 650,000 (£ 54,000). For 1919 the figures are 
460 loans, amounting to /. 91,000,000 (£ 7,580,000), number 
of houses 12,799 (3,002 + 9,797), annual deficit to be paid by 
the State /. 1,614,000 (£ 130,000). 

The following gives an idea of the work done in our three 
icreat cities. 

Amount of loa 
municipal building 

as granted for 

public utility 

housing soc. 




er of 






in course t 


uf houses 
f erection. 





The Hague 

/1 4,900,000.- 
„ 10,605,000.- 
„ 4,980,000.- 

/ 65, 170,000. - 
„ 13,694,000.-! 
„ 6,910,000.-: 









Moreover at Rotterdam 1,800 municipal dwellings and 3,700 
societies' dwellings are planned. For Amsterdam these figures 
are 1,843 and 7,911. 

The rents of houses built with State aid must be approved of 
by the State, and there is a tendency to raise them. Economic 
rents, however, cannot be fixed. For the cost of living is about 
92 per cent above the pre-w-ar cost, the raising of rents of 
private houses is under the control of rent committees, the cost 
of building is still increasing, and wages, though raised, have 
not in general reached a level, at >vhich economic rents may be 
paid. The deficit will be very great, in some cases amounting to 

1) Or planned. 
14 — 

nearly / 300 (£ 25) per house per annum. This state of affairs 
will continue for a long time. The capital cost now varies from 
/ 5.600 (£ 417) to / 8.500 (£ 709), and an economic rent should 
be about / 9 (15s) or / 12 (£1) per week (rates are not included 
in rents), whereas the normal pre-war rent for newly-built houses 
was / 4 (6s. 8d.) only in Amsterdam and some other towns. 
The main difference between the English and the Dutch 
scheme may be seen in the position of the public utility 
societies, most of the building being done in Holland by those 
societies. They are enabled to do so owing to the fact that the 
State and the local authority cover the whole deficit. 

Up to now, houses were built whei-e public utility societies, or 
local authorities (or private builders) were willing to do so; 
where there was no public utility society, or the local authority 
was not disposed to build or to grant a loan to a public 
utility society, no houses were built. Under our Housing- 
Emergency Act, June 1918, the Government may now impose 
on a local authority the duty of making an enquiry into the 
number of houses wanted and of providing these houses, either 
by building them themselves or by financing a public utility 
society. An enquiry into the housing shortage has now been 
ordered in all towns and villages with more than 1,000 inhabitants, 
the State paying a part of the cost. 

Besides the Emergency Acts above mentioned (the amendment 
of the Compulsory Land Purchase Act, the amendment of the 
Housing Act in relation to the time fixed for repaying loans, 
and the Housing Emergency Act) some other emergency mea- 
sures have been taken. Rent Boards have been instituted, the 
permission of which is required before rents may be raised 
or a lease terminated. The introduction of a bill into Parliament 
is announced, prohibiting the use of a building now used for 
human habitation, for other purposes without permission of the 
local authority (in some towns a regulation to that purpose has 
been already passed), giving power to local authorities to force 
the owner of an untenanted house to let it and to enable local 

— 15 

authorities to purchase compulsorily houses for thfe conversion 
iuto Hats for the working t-lasses. 

>[oreover the principal Housing Act will shortly be amended ; 
a bill to that purpose has been propax-ed. As mentioned above, 
it will make it a duty of local authorities to appoint building 
and housing inspectors. In case of non-compliance, the Provin- 
cial Government may take sucii measures as they jnay think fit. 
Municipalities of minor irai:)ortance may be obliged by royal 
decree (Local Government Board) to act jointly. Local authorities 
of moi'e than 10.000 inhabitants shall institute a housing 
exchange to which e^■ery owner of a house is to give notice 
whenever it is to let or a new lease is signed. The sections 
of the Housing Emergency Act which give power to the Crown 
(Government) to force any local authority to make an enquiry 
into the number of houses wanted and to provide these houses, 
will be embodied in the principal act. The duty to make an 
extension, plan may be imposed by the Provincial Government 
on any municipality they deem in want of it, a regulation 
which is of special importance in case a large town is bounded 
by rural districts. In case of non-compliance, the Provincial 
Government themselves shall make the plan. Loans may be 
granted by the State to public utility housing societies direct. 

The Health Committees mentioned above form part of the State 
Housing Inspection. Housing Commissioners, officiating as the 
official advisers of the Government and the Provincial Govern- 
ment in all housing matters, form another branch. Though their 
fufiction is of an advisoi'y character only, their influence on 
housing improvement has been very marked and most of the 
valuable work done outside the larger towns, including that of 
the Health Committees has been done at their instigation. Up 
to now they have enjoyed great independence; at the end of 
1919 a new Public Health Act of a moi-e centralizing character 
and providing for the appointment of a Chief Commissioner 
was passed. 


16 — 

HD Nederls-nds Instituut voor 

73^1^ Volkshuisve sting en Stedebouv 

A3i:T4. Dutch housing legislation